Routine and Recovery

I believe in routine. It makes me feel safe, and it makes me feel productive. I also believe it’s one of the best things I can do to assist in my continued eating disorder recovery.

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Not that you asked, but here is my morning routine:

4:30 to 5:30 am: Wake up. Make coffee in mini Italian percolator while concurrently frothing milk (start the coffee then the milk and they time out perfectly). Pour into pint-style glass and top with milk. Read book and check horoscope.

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6:00 am: Leave the house for yoga. If the weather is good, ride bike or walk.

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6:00 to 6:30 am: 2.5 mile bike ride. On the way, enjoy the sights of the early morning, such as:

Coffee shop employees loading the pastry case before they open

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Union workers in neon green-yellow shirts headed to work

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Bakery bread deliveries waiting on doorsteps…I’m always amazed that not more of these are stolen.

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The city skyline from Washington Avenue



6:30 til 8 am or so: Mysore style Ashtanga yoga.



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8:00 to 9:00am: Work way back home. Almost always see the Mambo Movers truck parked by Whole Foods.

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My routine might sound odd to you.

You might think “Jesus Christ what time do you wake up?” (plenty of people do. I just wake up naturally at these times. Even on weekends. It’s a blessing and a curse.)

But I love my routine.

A better use of routine.

It used to be that my routines revolved around food.

Food had to be eaten at certain times. On certain plates. In certain quantities. Then, I’d have an extra special routine of counting how many calories I’d eaten, over and over. Once one meal was over, the planning would commence for the next time I’d eat.

I was extremely controlling about my consumption, and it consumed my life.

My eating disorder gave me a lot of busy work. It required planning my day around food, and the routines it required took up a lot of time.

These were unhealthy routines. They were not serving me.

My current morning routine is one of the ways I challenge my eating disorder.

I don’t think that having a routine is a problem. In fact, I think it can be a very good thing. However, the routines involved in an eating disorder are totally unhealthy.

So rather than try to remove routines altogether, what I’m trying to do is replace them with positive routines that serve me in bigger ways.

My morning routine revolves around yoga.

The routine I detailed above is centered around my Ashtanga yoga practice. I had gotten into Ashtanga led classes in Asheville, but lapsed when I moved to Philadelphia.

I revived my passion when I began doing Mysore style Ashtanga. To the uninitiated, this practice may sound kind of strange.

It’s self led and it follows the same set sequences. Why pay to do yoga that’s self led, you ask? Well, there are some compelling reasons why. For instance: the teacher knows the sequence inside and out and has expertise on every pose. They can watch and give you very specific feedback, really deepening your practice. So you get a lot more one on one attention.

Additionally, there’s something magically meditative about that room. It’s warm and like some sort of church but where you can people breathing loudly and with purpose. It sounds weird but the energy hits you like a wall. Not in a bad way.

Ashtanga is a vigorous practice. There’s actually quite a bit of literature out there about how Ashtanga is not a good thing for recovering anorexics, because it can be triggering. In some cases the recovering anorexic might be deluding themselves, claiming they have a “healthy” routine where really, they’re secretly using Ashtanga for some sort of compulsive exercise and as a mode of weight management.

I think that this is a very valid concern. I see the logic. And I do feel the compulsion to practice NO MATTER WHAT sometimes. But I try to keep myself in check: if I have a day where I feel under the weather but have that voice that says “but you HAVE TO,” I try to question it. Would yoga really serve me today?

However, I think that the rewards far outweigh the risk. Overall, this routine has allowed me to invest in things that are serving my mind and body, rather than spending my time engaging in food routines that go nowhere and give me nothing. The peace that I feel when drinking coffee and reading in the early AM hours, the joy that I feel on my early morning bike rides…these are such small but special moments.

I have felt extremely rewarded by establishing a routine that makes me feel so good and vital. It makes me wonder: what other negative routines could I eradicate, and what goodness could I replace them with?

Do you have any routines?

Trimming The Fat

So, I've been seeing a lot of dead birds lately. I mean that literally.

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It's mostly tiny birds, crushed on the sidewalk, like maybe they landed there and someone accidentally stepped on them. I've seen a whopping seven of them in the past week or so. Two just yesterday.

It's been a little disturbing and a little unusual. Perhaps I'm a little superstitious, because I am prone to seeing significance in things like this: yeah, I see them as potential signs. What could encountering dead birds mean? I did what any semi-spiritual person would do: I gave it a google.

So, what is the significance of seeing dead birds? As I found here,

"It represents a death, but it is a death of something you have been focused on.  It could be the death or “end” of a bad relationship, or a bad financial situation, or a behaviour pattern you have been wanting to break, etc.  And with all things that end, the way is then clear for new opportunities to come into your life."

If you go by that school of thought, then encountering these dead birds might not be the bad omen I feared they were. As this article goes on, 

That is what these dead birds are, a message that whatever you were dealing with is now “dead” and behind you and you are now ready to move forward with the new opportunity that has been presenting  itself to you but that you have been ignoring for some reason. So, see the sign, and determine what message it is sending you and be grateful that you have now received the message and start looking for the new opportunity.

Well, that resonated with me, big time. I'm going through an obvious and big transition by ending CakeSpy and figuring out How To Move Forward. 

At the risk of continuing to sound annoyingly semi-spiritual, I think that this time of transition is vital in my final stages of recovery from disordered eating.

It's in some ways the most subtle phase of recovery, and in some ways the most dramatic. It's the time when I must shed my former skin to move forward.

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Or as I'm thinking of it, I'm trimming the fat.

When I say "trimming the fat" I am speaking in a figurative sense. Basically, I am taking stock of my life and deciding what is serving me and what is not. Those things that I identify as holding me back? I'm trying to get rid of them. Here are some examples of the "fat" that I'm trimming:

Unhealthy behaviors.

Recently, someone pointed out a behavior of mine. It is something that I do on a frequent basis when I'm rejected or criticized. Basically, when I am faced with the discomfort of criticism, I take on this sunny-yet-steely demeanor, breezing off the comments and kind of shrugging "oh well, that's just the way I am / the best I can do / etc". I take an attitude of "this is bouncing right off of me" but then, later, in private, I'll obsess about the criticism and have painful, I'm-not-good-enough emotions. 

So, maybe instead of using time and energy letting things like this fester inside of me, maybe what I really need to do is this: take a minute to feel the pain or impact of the criticism at the time it is given, and begin to actually work on it rather than going to my cave. While it might sting more in the moment, ultimately I would experience less pain in the long run. 

This is an example of an unhealthy behavior that I am working very hard to eradicate. Not only does it simplify my life, but it reduces the temptation to be secretive, which is when I tend to return to disordered eating thoughts. 

Obsessive food thoughts.

I am at a point in eating disorder recovery where I have not been actively restricting for quite a long time. But I am still sometimes prone to obsessive food thoughts. In my opinion, the thoughts are MUCH harder to get rid of than the actual behavior of restricting, bingeing, purging, what have you.

So how am I beginning to face and banish these obsessive food thoughts? By actually paying attention to what I eat and the effect is has on me. 

Believe it or not, for a long time I didn't really pay attention to how food affected my mind and body. I just kind of ate the same "safe" things all the time. It never occurred to me that some of these foods could actually be affecting my brain and perpetuating the obsessive food thoughts. 

Well, I've had a bit of a wake up call and have really begun noticing the connections between how I feel physically and mentally, and what I eat. I have made some drastic dietary changes which have had an extremely positive effect. Not only have I noticed huge relief in certain physical symptoms, but a huge reduction in obsessive food thoughts. 

Everything that keeps me from moving forward.

This one is perhaps harder to explain, but basically, I am taking an inventory of everyone and everything in my life and assigning a "pass/fail" system to it. 

For instance: pair of shoes I haven't worn since 2014? FAIL. Jeans that I never liked my butt in? FAIL. But it's also extending to people, places, and habits that aren't serving me. For instance: acquaintance who might become a friend one day but flakes out every time we make a coffee date? FAIL. 

I don't want to sound negative, but as it turns out there's a lot of stuff I have been carrying around both physically and emotionally which are really not doing much for me. Maybe we all are. 

Good fat = filler 

The good thing about trimming all that fat is now that I have all of these lean, exposed places. That means that there is room for Good Stuff in my life.

So in addition to trimming the fat, I'm also buffering myself up with some new behaviors to fill in what I am leaving behind. It's like I'm taking that old flabby fat and discarding it, and using good fat to fill in those voids. Here are some ways I'm doing that: 

Investing in myself.

I've been investing in myself, literally. For a long time, I was really cheap and would only buy articles of clothing that cost under $10 at thrift stores; similarly, I wouldn't invest in good blankets, body care products, etc. Part of it was a mentality of "oh, I don't need those fancy things". With items like furniture, etc, part of it was the idea that I never lived anywhere long enough to make such investments worthwhile. 

I am not saying that I've been on a huge spending spree here, but I am beginning to see the value in investing myself in these ways. By doing something like paying $78 for a pair of jeans that actually looks good on me, I'm showing myself respect, not to mention being less wasteful than buying 4 crappy pairs from the Target kids department for $15 each and not actually liking how I look in any of them. Investing in myself is a positive way of reinforcing the idea that I am worthy and good enough. 

Getting stronger.

I've been spending time getting physically stronger, too. Once again, I mean this literally. I've been a yoga enthusiast for a long time, but I've always been more flexible than strong. In many ways, I've been kind of passive about this in the past, just figuring "shrug, that's how I'm made, can't change it". 

The thing is, I can change it, and I am. So I have been focusing on strength building by doing exercises and working with weights, and it has had a pretty profound effect on my psyche. For one, it makes me feel more confident in my body. But for another, it makes me feel deeply capable. It might sound silly, but getting stronger physically is helping transport me from this place of being a helpless girl who can't lift things to being a capable woman. This has a positive effect mentally, as well: I feel like I can do things. 

Defining what I want.

Once someone gave me a great compliment, which was that "Jessie, it doesn't take you much to go from 'what if?' to 'let's go'."

Right now, I am trying to expand that in myself. I am taking the time to define and identify things (jobs, people, opportunities) that I want in my life. Well, I guess right now I am still in a time of transition, but I want to figure out these things.

I believe that when you take the time to actively define your goals like this, you become empowered to actually make a reality. This gives me focus and clarity, which means I can devote my attentions to things that truly matter to me. Without this focus, my thoughts can become jumbled, I can become overwhelmed, and turn to food thoughts for order and solace. I'd say that working toward positive goals is a much better use of my time and energy. 

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Conclusion

The first steps in recovery, of course, are addressing the direct behavior toward food, be it restricting, bingeing and purging, whatever your method of self-abuse. 

But to progress into a deeper state of recovery once the behaviors have been dealt with, I believe that it's necessary to trim the fat from your life. It's the unhealthy and unnecessary things in your life that are going to tempt you back into disordered eating every time. 

Personally, by letting go of the "fat" and filling in my life with more positive influences and direction, I believe that I am in effect giving the last vestiges of my disordered eating a swift kick and allowing myself to grow into the person I'm meant to be. 

What fat do you need to trim from your life? 

Who Am I Now?

There's something different about me in this photo. It took me a little time to figure out what it was: I'm not smiling. 

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For those of you who know me, I'm basically always smiling. In fact, I remember going to college on my first day and the security guard looked at me and said "Your Native American Name is Smiles-a-Lot". Actually, he didn't say "Native American" and in retrospect maybe it was kind of a racist thing to say. But the idea is that smiling is pretty inherent to my nature. I'm a sunny, upbeat person. 

In my previous life as CakeSpy, I capitalized on my sunny nature. Basically, I embodied a lifestyle of all cake, glitter, sugar, and happiness. At all times. This was very authentic to me, don't get me wrong. But it wasn't the full version of me. At times, I felt very one-note, like I had rendered myself into a cartoon character. 

So the fact that I am not smiling in this photo seems to speak volumes about the current place I am in life. Not unhappy, but at the point of Big Transition. 

Saying goodbye to CakeSpy

As you probably know if you're on this site, a little less than a month ago I made the decision to lovingly say goodbye to CakeSpy. It was a massive decision, and I felt extremely supported by the beautiful responses I received from readers both old and new. 

One of the big reasons why I said goodbye to CakeSpy is because I want to fully recover from my eating disorder.

I have suffered from disordered eating since the age of 13. At the age of 30, I entered recovery in earnest, and have identified as "mostly recovered" since then. But there have been certain aspects of the disorder, including obsessive food thoughts and calorie counting, that have remained problematic for me. 

I realized that running CakeSpy was perpetuating some of the behaviors that were holding me hostage in mostly-but-not-totally recovered purgatory.

I hated to admit this to myself, but it was true. I realized that to truly kick my eating disorder for ever and ever, I had to remove food as the primary focus in my life. And that meant giving up CakeSpy. 

This is somewhat ironic, because in many ways, CakeSpy was a vehicle for my early recovery. 

Operating a food blog helped me be less scared and more curious about food. It helped me come back into the world. But as I progressed in recovery, the continued exposure to food began to act in a different way. I found that it kept the obsessive food thoughts coming my way. It also kept me eating a high sugar diet which honestly was not doing me any favors health-wise, as much as on an emotional level, it made me feel good and loved and treated well. 

I realized that to continue progressing in recovery and as a human being, my focus had to shift from food to actually living life. I don't want food to be the most important thing in my life anymore. I want to eat food so that it can fuel me being awesome. I want my art, my writing, and my relationships to be the most important things in my life. 

So who am I now? 

Now that CakeSpy is over, I feel like part of me has died. I feel like I have also been reborn, so that leaves me feeling like an infant. The world seems totally full of beautiful untapped opportunity in every direction...and yet kind of scary at the same time. 

On the one hand, I don't feel all that different. I am still doing artwork and writing assignments for various clients. I am still keeping busy and doing yoga and collecting unicorns. But on a very basic and pure level, there's been a huge shift in my identity. I'm not Jessie the CakeSpy anymore. 

I'm just Jessie now. 

So who is this Jessie who believes in full recovery and is going to try to find it? Here are some things I know for now: 

I am recovering. I truly do believe in full recovery from eating disorders. I believe I have taken a powerful step toward recovery in shifting away from CakeSpy. 

I am an adult. They say that when you enter recovery from an eating disorder, you are emotionally the age at which your disorder onset. So if I entered recovery at age 30 but my disorder's onset was at age 13, then now at age 36 I'm emotionally a 19 year old. Actually, I think this might be pretty accurate. But now that I've given up my website, I think I'm ready to focus on actually being an adult, as hard as it might be for me to catch up on those "lost" emotional and developmental years. 

I'm a little scared, but I'm strong. Sure, I'm a little scared of this Big Transition in my life. But I'm financially stable, I am talented and funny and cute, and I have good ideas. I'm strong, and I know I'm going to be ok. 

I'm human. I think that one of the biggest transitions is going to be shifting from the cartoon character version of myself to a more human version of myself. Somewhere along the line I think I slipped into the persona I set up for CakeSpy and didn't give myself permission to come out. I'm ready to just be a person. Someone for whom it's not always just cake and sweetness (though let's be honest, it is still largely unicorns and rainbows). 

Oh, and permission to be someone who doesn't have to smile all the time. 

Back to that photo at the top for a second. The other day asked my mom to take the photo to capture the ridiculous face my little pug Olive was making. But then as she was taking the photo someone must have said something to me or something, because I looked away. 

What I see in that photo is a very honest face, and a very real version of me.

That's what I want to continue working toward and letting unfold: the real and true version of me, minus an eating disorder.